Two years ago, OWA began establishing itself as the region’s ultimate “entertainment and amusement destination.” In addition to The Park at OWA’s thrilling lineup of rides, Downtown OWA is filled with shopping and dining options that pull the masses through the gates.
Now, the new OWA Theater is adding live entertainment to OWA’s formula for fun and excitement. For its first show, the OWA Theater will be bringing a taste of Las Vegas to Foley in the form of a year-long residency from “Legends in Concert,” which will feature performances six days a week.
“Legends in Concert” has spent over three decades featuring performances from the entertainment world’s best celebrity tribute performers. From Elvis Presley to Lady Gaga, this celebrity tribute show specializes in giving audiences an accurate entertaining live portrayal of some of music’s biggest names.
The popularity of “Legends in Concert” has catapulted the show beyond Las Vegas and onto the worldwide stage. Brian Brigner, Chief Operating Officer of On Stage Enterprises, which produces “Legends in Concert,” says that nostalgia has played a major part in the expansion of this show into new markets. Brigner says that this show is fueled by the old adage: “Music is the soundtrack of our lives.” He sees “Legends in Concert” as a musical journey through vivid memories. Brigner says music resonates with memories ranging from college experiences to first kisses. He adds that the show’s mission is not only to help audience members relive fond memories but also to create new ones.
“I see the show every night, and I really watch the guests more than I watch the show these days,” Brigner said. “I just like to see what moves people and what gets people to let their hair down and clap and sing along. It’s what moves people to a tear or an emotional moment. I see these things happen all the time. I just think that the magic of what we do is bringing to life those musical memories for people.”
Putting together a “Legends in Concert” show is a very strategic formula that is focused solely on the audience. Brigner says that each show is customized to fit “any market, any region, any demographic or any musical niche.” When “Legends in Concert” comes to a new region, Brigner says that his team analyzes several factors to see what tribute performers should be featured on the lineup. He says that they analyze everything from an artist’s album sales to concert attendance to see who would pull the public to the stage.
“We’ve pulled Billboard numbers and touring information and looked at the last 10 years through the state of Alabama and how people did on ticket sales,” Brigner said. “That’s how deep we get into it.”
Brigner also says that the audience has an active role in choosing which tribute performer will be featured at any given “Legends in Concert” show. Every night, “Legends in Concert” audience members are surveyed in venues around the world. One of the questions on the list is, “What artist would you like to see on your next visit?” The answers are tallied and formatted on a spreadsheet for Brigner and his team to study. Their choice in featured performers are a big part of deciding who will appear on a “Legends in Concert” lineup.
“We sit in these conference meetings and have these talent meetings all the time,” Brigner explained. “At the end of the day, we say, ‘We’re not buying the ticket. What do the guests want to see?’”
As far as finding the tribute performers, Brigner says that a majority of the talent finds him. He notes that “Legends in Concert” is at the “top of the game in the tribute-artist world.” The show’s reputation has made it an aspiration for many tribute artists. Brigner says that he received no shortage of submissions. However, he says that only 2 percent of the hundreds of received submissions make the show.
Even though a tribute artist may look just like a celebrity does not mean that they instantly get selected. Brigner says that the first audition focuses on the artist’s vocal ability. “Legends in Concert” prides itself on being the only show in the region that features tribute artists singing live. He cites this aspect of the show as being one of the main things that audiences enjoy.
“It doesn’t matter how good you look, how good you dance, how great your costumes are, where you’ve been or what you’ve done. If you can’t sing, then you won’t make it on our show,” Brigner said.
A tribute artist known only as Isaiah is one of that 2 percent chosen to perform with “Legends in Concert.” Those attending the show at OWA Theater will witness Isaiah as pop superstar Bruno Mars. However, Mars is not the first artist that he has tackled. Isaiah’s legacy as a tribute artist began in his early teens. He says that a man made the remark that he looked like a young Michael Jackson. As a child in a “sheltered” household, Isaiah says that he began studying Jackson’s music and choreography. From there, he began securing bookings at “small parties, weddings and get-togethers,” which led to him taking his Michael Jackson tribute act to the road. After receiving his education, Isaiah took his act to Las Vegas to perform with the “big boys.” When Bruno Mars reached superstar status, Isaiah decided to pay tribute to this pop icon, especially after observing that Jackson’s and Mars’ stage presence and vocals were similar.
“I figured out a way to more or less look like [Bruno Mars] through makeup and costumes and mannerisms,” Isaiah said. “If you saw me walking around on a day-to-day basis, you wouldn’t know who I was playing.”
Isaiah has a pre-game routine to get into his tribute to Bruno Mars. He says that he eats a lot of carbohydrates to supply him for energy for the show. He combines this with a regiment of “James Brown grunts.” He says that it adds a bit of vocal rasp for authenticity. Occasionally, Isaiah says that he watches Bruno Mars video footage to hone the superstar’s stage presence.
“He’s got a personality that I don’t actually have,” Isaiah said. “He’s not arrogant or cocky, but when he goes on stage, he knows that these thousands and thousands of people came to see him. I have to prep myself, because I’m naturally introverted.”
Even though his occupation keeps him on the road, Isaiah says that being a tribute artist is a fun and rewarding job. He likens it to “playing dress-up” on a nightly basis. Isaiah says that another rewarding aspect is the positive impact that he has on the audience. He says that he and his fellow “Legends in Concert” tribute artists provide their audiences a chance to relieve the monotony of the 9-to-5 workday.
Isaiah says that the public should come to a “Legends in Concert” performance expecting to be overwhelmed, and Brigner agrees. In addition to Bruno Mars, the OWA Theater’s “Legends in Concert” residency currently includes tributes to Rod Stewart, Elvis Presely, Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks. Brigner says that each performer will succeed in providing a live performance illusion on par with the actual performer. Brigner does not shy away from saying that a “Legends in Concert” performer is the most legitimate tribute that one can experience short of the actual artist.
“If you never saw Elvis Presley, then this is what it was like to see him live,” Brigner said. “If you saw him, we’re going to take you back to that night or moment, whether it was Las Vegas in 1969 or Hawaii in 1973. We’re going to transport you to that moment. As crazy as things are with television and constant media coverage of everything that’s going on in the world, I think it’s an amazing escape to a time that people really enjoyed.”
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